Peak (?) farmland

by Judith Curry

We are confident that we stand on the peak of cropland use, gazing at a wide expanse of land that will be spared for Nature. – Ausubel, Werner and Waggoner

Matt Ridley on Peak Farmland

Matt Ridley has a post entitled Peak Farmland is Here, which discusses the recent publication Peak Farmland and the Prospect for Land Sparing.  Excerpts:

Jesse Ausubel and Iddo Wernick of Rockefeller University, and Paul Waggoner of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, have reached this conclusion by documenting the gradual “dematerialization” of agriculture. Globally, the production of a given quantity of crop requires 65% less land than it did in 1961, thanks to fertilizers, tractors, pesticides, better varieties and other factors. Even corrected for different kinds of crops, the acreage required is falling at 2% a year.

In the U.S., the total corn yield and the total corn acreage tracked each other in lock step between 1870 and 1940-there was no change in average yield per acre. But between 1940 and 2010, corn production almost quintupled, while the acreage devoted to growing corn fell slightly. Similar divergences appeared later in other countries. Indian wheat production increased fivefold after 1970, while wheat acreage crept up by less than 1.5 times. Chinese corn production rose sevenfold over the same period while corn acreage merely doubled.

Yet the amount of farmland in the world was still rising until recently. The reason is that increased farm productivity has been matched by rising demand for food, driven by population growth and swelling affluence. But the effects of these trends are waning.

Global population growth has slowed markedly in recent years-the rate of change halving since 1970 to about 1% a year today. Growing affluence leads people to eat more calories, and especially more meat. Since it takes two to 10 calories of maize or wheat to produce a calorie of meat, depending on the animal, carnivory demands more cropland. But as a country gets richer, total calorie intake soon levels off, even as wealth continues to rise, and the change in meat consumption decelerates. Chinese meat consumption is now rising less than half as fast as Chinese affluence; Indians have grown richer without taking to meat much at all.

What the Rockefeller team did was plug some highly conservative assumptions about the future into a model and see how much land would be required for growing crops in 2060. The researchers find that over the next 50 years people are likely to release from farming a land area “1½ times the size of Egypt, 2½ times the size of France, or 10 Iowas, and possibly multiples of this amount.”

Indeed, the authors find that this retreat from the land would have already begun but for one factor so lunatic that they cannot imagine it will not be reversed soon: biofuels. If the world had not decided to subsidize the growing of energy crops on 3.4% of arable land, then absolute declines in the acreage of arable land “would have begun during the last decade.”

Mark Lynas on farming

Mark Lynas has posted his recent lecture at the Oxford Farming Conference.  Read the whole thing, it is stunning.  Excerpts:

I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

So I guess you’ll be wondering – what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.

When I first heard about Monsanto’s GM soya I knew exactly what I thought. Here was a big American corporation with a nasty track record, putting something new and experimental into our food without telling us. Mixing genes between species seemed to be about as unnatural as you can get – here was humankind acquiring too much technological power; something was bound to go horribly wrong. These genes would spread like some kind of living pollution. It was the stuff of nightmares.

These fears spread like wildfire, and within a few years GM was essentially banned in Europe, and our worries were exported by NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to Africa, India and the rest of Asia, where GM is still banned today. This was the most successful campaign I have ever been involved with.

This was also explicitly an anti-science movement. We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life. Hence the Frankenstein food tag – this absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends. What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technology, but our reaction against it.

So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.

I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.

I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.

I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.

I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.

But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.

But at the same time the growth of yields worldwide has stagnated for many major food crops, as research published only last month by Jonathan Foley and others in the journalNature Communications showed. If we don’t get yield growth back on track we are indeed going to have trouble keeping up with population growth and resulting demand, and prices will rise as well as more land being converted from nature to agriculture.

The biggest risk of all is that we do not take advantage of all sorts of opportunities for innovation because of what is in reality little more than blind prejudice. 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough. So my conclusion here today is very clear: the GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe – over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm. You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no-one has died from eating GM.

Just as I did 10 years ago, Greenpeace and the Soil Association claim to be guided by consensus science, as on climate change. Yet on GM there is a rock-solid scientific consensus, backed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, health institutes and national science academies around the world. Yet this inconvenient truth is ignored because it conflicts with their ideology.

I know it is politically incorrect to say all this, but we need a a major dose of both international myth-busting and de-regulation. The plant scientists I know hold their heads in their hands when I talk about this with them because governments and so many people have got their sense of risk so utterly wrong, and are foreclosing a vitally necessary technology.

So I challenge all of you today to question your beliefs in this area and to see whether they stand up to rational examination. Always ask for evidence, as the campaigning group Sense About Science advises, and make sure you go beyond the self-referential reports of campaigning NGOs.

But most important of all, farmers should be free to choose what kind of technologies they want to adopt. If you think the old ways are the best, that’s fine. You have that right.

What you don’t have the right to do is to stand in the way of others who hope and strive for ways of doing things differently, and hopefully better. Farmers who understand the pressures of a growing population and a warming world. Who understand that yields per hectare are the most important environmental metric. And who understand that technology never stops developing, and that even the fridge and the humble potato were new and scary once.

So my message to the anti-GM lobby, from the ranks of the British aristocrats and celebrity chefs to the US foodies to the peasant groups of India is this. You are entitled to your views. But you must know by now that they are not supported by science. We are coming to a crunch point, and for the sake of both people and the planet, now is the time for you to get out of the way and let the rest of us get on with feeding the world sustainably.

Keith Kloor has an article at Collide-a-Scape that includes this quote from Mark Lynas:

Well, life is nothing if not a learning process. As you get older you tend to realize just how complicated the world is and how simplistic solutions don’t really work… There was no “Road to Damascus” conversion, where there’s a sudden blinding flash and you go, “Oh, my God, I’ve got this wrong.” There are processes of gradually opening one’s mind and beginning to take seriously alternative viewpoints, and then looking more closely at the weight of the evidence.

Wow, what a great statement.  Mark Lynas was the hero of previous Climate Etc. posts  An opening Mind, Part II.

JC comments:  What with peak farmland and GM foods, hopefully there will be sufficient food to support all that obesity that is going around.  (JC removes tongue from cheek)

Of the ‘big three’:  food, water and energy, it seems like our understanding of the future of food is on a firmer basis.  Biofuel and  GM are the policy wild cards here.

If you haven’t read it yet, read Mark Lynas’ essay.  If you’ve already read it, read it again.  It raises many important points regarding environmentalism, and his personal saga through all this is very enlightening, not to mention courageous.

147 responses to “Peak (?) farmland

  1. You can’t get closer to humanity’s evolutionary roots than eathing well-cooked aged beef. Humans have every enzyme that a lion has except those needed for digesting hide.

    • David Springer

      You have enzymes the lion (an obligate carnivore) doesn’t have so you can digest plants. Someone not an imbecile, which leaves you out, might wonder why humans and lions have such markedly different dentition. Someone not a moron might wonder why carnivorous mammals have claws and humans have delicate fingernails that can hardly break their own skin to say nothing of having no effect at all on animals with fur. What a maroon. I wish you’d switch to the AGW camp and make them look stupid by association instead.

    • Waggy, I don’t know where you come up with this stuff. Early man didn’t raise cattle, and didn’t have the time to age meat or cook it well. Today’s man can digest hides. One of my favorites is fried pig skin.

      If you eat meat, you also may be eating juice from the animal’s digestive tract. Well-cooked fecal matter won’t hurt you but it’s still doo doo. I don’t like eating a lot of doo doo, so I limit my intake of meat.

      How else are people like lions? Well, some men like for women to do all the work. Some men like to sleep all day and cat around at night.

      • Until they got faster and smarter Ancients toasted the big bones left by other carnivores and scooped out the marrow. There are no vegitarians in humanity’s family tree. Trust me on this…

      • Waggy, a test of my saliva shows I have almost 3% Neanderthal DNA, and I instinctively know you don’t know much. My ancestry explains my craving for fruit and veggies.

      • An examination of the big bone injuries among your Neanderthal forefathers show the sort of damage that is only sustained nowadays in rodeos. Your ancestors had a taste for woolly beasts.

      • I didn’t say they never ate meat. But who could pass up some tasty apples, pears, berries, and nuts all free to be picked.

      • The lion that eats your belly full of grass…

      • You guys can insult each other all you want, but humans are omnivores

      • cannibals too

      • Max_OK

        You say the saliva test shows you are 3% Neanderthal.

        What parts would that be?

        (If you’re lucky, it’s the right parts.)


      • Max_CH, to be more precise, my DNA is estimated to be 2.9% Neanderthal, which puts me in the 98th percentile for Northern European types like us, presuming you are that type. You likely have Neanderthal DNA yourself. If you want to find out about your DNA, contact 23andme and buy their kit. You simply spit in a test tube and return it to them, and they tell you lots of interesting things about you. I have confirmed it’s ligit.

  2. Thank you, Professor Curry, for continuing to explore the extent of government misinformation in other areas than climate science.

  3. So maybe now there can be a new look at irradiated food preservation?

    • Food is wasted and markets cannot be reached because of the short shelf life of many fruits. In far north Queensland and Papua New Guinea, fruits like avocado, paw-paw and mango have distribution and storage problems because of their short shelf lives. If irradiation can extend shelf life without detriment to flavour and nutritional value then it should be exploited.

      • Alexander Biggs,

        If irradiation can extend shelf life without detriment to flavour and nutritional value then it should be exploited.

        It can do and this has been well known for at least three decades. It has been doing so for at least three decades. But a lot more could be done. It suffered the same irrational and illogical phobias as nuclear power back in the 1980s and since and its application has been severely limited.

      • Daniel Suggs

        I seem to remember South Africa was pushing irradiation back in the late 70’s. I don’t know if they are still doing it.

      • From what I understand, up to 50% of food production is lost to spoilage before it ever gets to market.

        I haven’t seen data on what percentage is lost after reaching market – i.e. anyone know what the average loss is for a supermarket?

        In developed countries we can probably tack on a percentage or two from spoilage after it is bought by the consumer.

  4. Well, I believe in the abiotic formation of land, so I dunno about Peak Farmland. Now soils, clearly there is a biotic component there in many.

    • More importantly, have we yet reached peak stupid here at Climate Etc?

      Each day, I think surely we must have, only to find the next day… sadly no.

    • kim

      A lot of the biotic component of soils (at least here is Switzerland) is simply BS.


      PS B = “bovine”

      • President Truman’s First Lady was once asked by reporters to try to get her husband to refer to lawn ‘fertilizer’ rather than lawn ‘manure’. She replied with a tale of the effort it took her to get him to use the term ‘manure’ instead of his preferred locution.

      • kim

        Sounds like our man, Harry.

        Salt of the Earth he was.


  5. “Yet on GM there is a rock-solid scientific consensus, backed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, health institutes and national science academies around the world.”

    Interesting to see Lynas appealing the scientific consensus.

    Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had…….I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E = mc². Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way. -Crichton

    Own Goal.

  6. Wind technology is to energy as the macrobiotic diet is to well being.

    • I know what each of the words mean, but have no idea what you mean.
      What you do is typing not writing.

      • My guess is Waggy means wind technology does nothing for energy and macrobiotic diet does nothing for well being.

        Another interpretation is he tried a macrobiotic diet, and didn’t like it because it made him tired, and he passed a lot of wind despite Beano technology.

      • Think about it. Humanity needs more not less energy. Honesty in academia has been an epic fail and a love of honesty is STEP No. 1 in the scientific method. Because of the high degree of anti-science that we have seen in America and in the bureaucracies of government and in the media and most especially in the halls of the government-education complex it is useful to take a step back for a skeptics’ moment and practice being an observer of global warming as an example of a pathological science gone mainstream and have the courage to be honest about our limitations.

      • Waggy says

        … it is useful to take a step back for a skeptics’ moment and practice being an observer of global warming as an example of a pathological science gone mainstream …

        I think I see the problem. You believe global warming is science gone bad, not temperature gone up. Given that misunderstanding, what you have been saying here at Climate, Etc. would make sense to you.

      • I believe in the scientific method. Everything else is dogma.

      • …there is no ‘the’ scientific method.

      • Well, sure, you like the scientific method as long as it gives you the results you like. But when it doesn’t, you don’t like it.

      • That is what the null hypothesis is all about. Try it you might like it.

      • Max_OK

        The nice thing about following the “scientific method” is that it is unbiased (if followed rigorously).

        You can choose which hypotheses you want to test, but (if you’re honest) you can’t choose the empirical results of your test beforehand.

        If you “massage” the data to influence the result, you are primarily fooling yourself (earlier thread).

        Working with model simulations is a different story (GIGO).


      • manacker said on January 6, 2013 at 5:58 am

        “The nice thing about following the “scientific method” is that it is unbiased (if followed rigorously).”

        Yes, but “followed rigorously” ain’t easy. There are many ways to go wrong. It can be inhibiting.

    • Wag said, “Wind technology is to energy as the macrobiotic diet is to well being.”

      That is not too bad Wag, The macrobiotic diet is thought to have saved people from radiation sickness. It was an austere diet, since the hospital was in war torn Japan near one of the A-bomb sites and included local vegetables since that was all there was. The diet was high in potassium and iodine, which would be the likely radiation effective part and low in fat, because there was a shortage of meats due to the austere conditions.

      So instead of thinking why the diet may or may not have been effective, you adopt the diet religiously, link nuclear war to cancer, cancer to diet, diet to cure and cure to austerity, bingo! linear no threshold logic rules yet again.

      • You cetainly richened up the analogy with additional interesting layers of meaning and reasoning.

        Let me try my luck again:

        Wind technology is to energy as smoke signals are to mobile communications.

      • Wag, nope should have rested on your laurel. In order to be “pro” science and “anti” technology you have to be able to make the BS links. Like having an in depth knowledge of radiant physics and having an irrational fear of radiation.

        The truth does generally lie in the middle since there is a lot more gray than black or white.

  7. “was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends” – ML

    “There are processes of gradually opening one’s mind….. looking more closely at the weight of the evidence.” ‘ ML

    YES YES YES!!!

    When will the climate ‘sceptics’ stop vilifying scientists and science, and start looking at the evidence.

    • “What we didn’t realise at the time was that the real Frankenstein’s monster was not GM technologyclimate science, but our reaction against it.”

    • Michael

      Agree with the Lynas quotes you cite.

      The underlying problem is “FEAR”.

      Fear is the strongest of all emotions – it is visceral and not rational.

      It can close the mind to the “weight of the evidence”.

      Most of the current “CAGW” campaign (of IPCC, WWF, Greenpeace, James E. Hansen, etc,) is based on fear mongering..

      The parallels between GM and CAGW are fairly easy to see (unless one is blinded by fear).


      • “The parallels between GM and CAGW are fairly easy to see (unless one is blinded by fear).” – Max


        In both cases, we have groups casting scientists as villians, and advocating a fringe interpretation that has little evidentiary basis.

      • Maybe even “Absolutely”!

      • Steven Mosher

        YES , michael, Finally somebody admits that mann caste mcintyre as a villian

    • David Springer

      In this case a close look at the evidence reveals a quagmire of corruption emplaced for political purposes.

  8. Mark Lynas, is that it?
    You are sorry and wish so many people hadn’t died or gone blind.
    Big of you. perhaps you could have a word with the animal rights terrorists and call them off me and my colleagues?

  9. David Springer

    Curry you must be living a sheltered life if you find anything other than his candid admission of being a scientific illiterate surprising. The only valid concern about GM crops I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard them all, is that a peanut gene for instance gets inserted into a potato and people with peanut allergies start suffocating on their own tongues. A Cornell professor I’ve corresponded with a fair amount, John Sanford, is the inventor of the gene gun.

    This was the first step past using chemical mutagens looking for novel gene changes in crops. It’s more like a shotgun with buckshot except the shot in this case is genes. So say you cut up the genome of a strawberry and blast it at germ plasm of a tomato germ cell. Some of the genes get incorporated into the target and you get novel results. This is a lot more specific than mutagens. That was close to thirty years ago. Now it’s way more precise where selected genes are cut out of one thing, including required regulatory regions, and an endogenous retrovirus is given this payload which like a little robot inserts it into the target. This is also used in experimental (and probably mainstream now) cures for human genetic disorders. On the cusp is artificial microrganisms that drink municipal wastewater and piss gasoline.

  10. Joseph O'Sullivan

    One issue I have a question about is companies enforcing the US patents on GMO’s in the US at least. Pollan in Omnivore’s Dilemma went into some detail on this. The US law on patents is currently in flux at this point in time. When in law school I learned that the case law was all over the place and depending on what Congress did anything I learned could change with a vote in Congress and a President’s approval.

    I’m the endangered species class being a environmentalist who has an open mind about GMO’s

    • David Springer

      The general rule of thumb is you can’t patent something found in nature. It must be an invention (which rules out naturally occuring things) and it must be novel (which rules out patenting something that’s already in use) and it must be non-obvious to an expert in the art (which means it can’t be something where the problem defines the invention).

      That said a clever lawyer can put a lot of crap over on patent examiners. I suspect large corporations and well known IP law firms get rubber stamp approvals without much due diligence by the examiner. I participated in the assessment of about 1000 patent abstracts during a two-year stint as an in-house examiner. I put my stamp of approval on about 300 of them all of which, to the best of my knowledge, went on to be granted a patent. Of course I was at a large corporation, we used outside IP law firms that were top guns in patent business, and I suspect most of it was automatically approved by the USPTO upon seeing the origins. I have four granted patents myself from that process and not a single one of them met with any objections from the USPTO that required a response from me.

  11. Penn and Teller’s take on GM food starts at about 11:30.

  12. Mark Lynas also needs to apologize for throwing a pie at Bjorn Lomborg.


    • Well, he’s just fallen flatface into a Genetically Modified Lemon Chiffon Pie. Pretty bird sing high in banana tree, but the fruit of the poor lemon is as sweet as sweet can be.

  13. Judith Curry

    Interesting post.

    Hats off to Mark Lynas for conceding he was wrong in his irrational fear of GM crops before checking out the science.

    The scare campaigns of environmental lobby groups, such as Greenpeace and WWF, had apparently been successful.

    This quote tells it all:

    We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe – over a decade and a half with three trillion GM meals eaten there has never been a single substantiated case of harm. You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food. More to the point, people have died from choosing organic, but no-one has died from eating GM.

    Now Lynas recognizes that the net benefactors of GM are not only the corporations that have invested into this new technology, but mankind itself.

    Lynas’ data show that the remarkable increase in agricultural productivity that has occurred since 1970 (2.4x increase in crop yields) has slowed down recently.

    He sees GM as the solution to this problem.

    Makes sense to me.

    But I think the broader lesson here (for Lynas and all of us) is that fear mongering campaigns by lobby groups are rarely based on sound science.

    Is there a parallel in the “CAGW” campaign, led by IPCC and others?


  14. Other irrational fears I can think of:

    1) The fear of water fluoridation. Fluoride is added to public water supplies to prevent tooth decay but some alarmists claim it’s a health danger.

    2) The fear that carbon taxes will bankrupt the economy. Australia’s economy doesn’t appear to have bankrupted as some of the anti-tax alarmists were predicting. Similarly alarmist claims that banning CFCs would harm the economy turned out completely wrong.

    • lolwot

      You are right.

      There have been a lot of campaigns playing to the irrational fears of frightened humans.

      Most of these eventually die out as it becomes apparent that the fear was ill-founded.

      Some (like the recent “end of the Mayan world”) were so silly that they were hardly taken seriously.

      It remains to be seen when the current fear of “CAGW” (as defined by IPCC) will die out, but it will inevitably do so eventually IMO.

      We have guys like Jim D talking of “4C warming by 2100”, but this tend is not yet visible in the temperature record (the peak rate was around 0.15C per decade in the 1990s and that has stopped for now) – so it is becoming increasingly improbable that such a level of warming could occur.

      Since CAGW is a long-term disaster prediction (and a whole lot of people are cashing in on the multi-billion dollar business it has created), this one will probably be around for a few more years (even if the current “pause” in global warming continues).

      Let’s see how it develops.


    • lolwot

      With all due respect, the fear of carbon taxes is that they would be an additional method for the government to raise revenue but would provide little to no other benefit. Have you looked at how much fossil fuel consumption was reduced in Australia as a result of CO2 taxes?

    • lolwot,

      Agree with you on the irrational fear of fluoride.

      As for CFC’s, perhaps early opposition included economic issues, but as progress on banning them only occured after substitute projects were available, I don’t recall a lot of economic objections. What some people did object to was the efficiency of the replacements in certain specific applications, primarily fire protection. The US government commenced a program of stockpiling Halon and other fire suppresent CFC’s due to the new compounds being significantly less effective.

      RE carbon taxes – I personally have no generalized object to a carbon tax, so long as it is evaluated on an economic basis. When the rational for one is based on environmental reasons, then forget about it.

  15. I would be all for GM-foods if two things would happen:

    1) It would be required to test for any negative health effects of a GM-food before it is sent to consumption. Legally a plant that is modified to produce a pesticide should be treated more like a new pharmaceutical product than a new breed – unlike now.

    2) Polluting neighbors field with sterile pollen (from GM plants) should be a cause to pay for damages caused (lowering the output of next years harvest). Instead the neighbor will be charged for theft of patented GM material.

    I have learned not to trust anyone who has been totally wrong on something to be correct now. The reason they were so wrong in the first place is their way of reaching a conclusion, not the facts they knew. He might have fixed his facts, but the way he is reasoning is still there.

    And the good old “we have science on our side – and consensus too!” -argument does not make him any more believable.

    There is even the cliché about vitamin A -deficient children going blind without golden rice. Now this is a forum of intelligent, educated people. Can anyone please explain to me why we need GM to save the children from vitamin A deficiency? Is there some reason they can’t eat carrots? It’s not like it is expensive, hard to grow or picky about the soil. One carrot per week is enough.

    • David Springer

      Plants that are modified to produce a pesticide are treated by the EPA as pesticides.

      Plant Incorporated Protectants (PIPs) / Genetically Modified Plants

      Plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs) are plants that have had genes inserted causing the plants to produce a pesticide inside its own tissues. When plants are genetically modified to produce pesticides in this manner, the genetic materials incorporated into the plant’s genome the pesticides they produce in the plant are regulated as pesticides by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When plant genes are modified to make the plants tolerate certain herbicides, they are not regulated as pesticides.

      If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (7:30am-3:30pm PST), or email at

      Additional Resources:
      •Plant Incorporated Protectants – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
      •Regulation of Plant-Incorporated Protectants – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
      •Current & Previously Registered Section 3 PIP Registrations – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
      •Agricultural Biotechnology – U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
      •Plant Biotechnology for Food and Feed – Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
      •United States Regulatory Agencies Unified Biotechnology Website – U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

      • Ok, so that is in order. Thank you.

        How about the compensation for decreasing yields in neighbouring fields, which now drives all farmers to eventually buy all their seeds?

        And carrots. I would really like to know if there is some reason why all those vitamin A deficient children can’t eat carrots but could eat golden rice instead.

    • I know, carrots are good for your eyes, have you ever seen a rabbit with glasses?

      Let them eat carrots!

      • Lynas (just like about every pro-GM person in the world) said that we need GM rice to save millions of children going blind from vitamin A deficiency. Expecially chinese children. China is the biggest producer of carrots in the world. Carrots contain β-carotene, which is transformed into vitamin A in the body.

        So the argument for saving millions of kids going blind seems to be nothing but a “think of the children” fallancy unless everyone in china is allergic to carrots.

    • Check out the Penn and Teller video I linked above, if you don’t have time, fast forward to 21 minutes, but I think you really need to watch the whole thing.

      • I did. I have three comments about it.

        1) Trusting the government. We in Finland had this episode with the bureau of health (THL) and swine flu vaccine (Pandemrix). The vaccine contained squalene, which enhanced the autoimmune response for the virus particles. It was known to have side effects and that is why some countries like Swizerland and Poland refused to vaccinate children with it. GSK sold it to EU countries on the condition that it would not be responsible for any side effects – this should have been a big red flag for everyone.

        But THL said it was certainly safe to take. It’s representatives said everyone who didn’t think it was safe and well tested was a conspiracy theorist who should be thrown to jail for endangering the public. It was absolutely impossible for it to cause any side effects. Squalene can be found in olive oil and can anything be more safe than olive oil?

        A year later we realised we had a narcolepsy epidemic among the kids that took the vaccine. THL’s own study concluded that the vaccine had increased narcolepsy more than 12 times. Main suspect was the squalene. Unfortunately narcolepsy seems to be just the tip of the iceberg – all kinds of autoimmune diseases seem to be on the rise and new cases keep popping up all the time among those who took the vaccine. THL study is currently in process to determine how much other autoimmune diseases have increased.

        Now THL admits that *of course* they didn’t have time to test the vaccine and they just thought it was best to take it even after it was discovered that swine flu was nothing like the terror pandemic it was thought to be. After receiving a massive funding boost from GSK (6 times more than what they got from the government) they made the decision that everyone should take it and that was it. After that they just lied. Everyone who called them on their lies was threatened with jail.

        Now we are facing a health care disaster more massive than with Talidomin – all thanks to the government who thought it knew best. No criminal investigation is underway. Nobody has resigned.

        So should the public just trust that the government knows best? Absolutely not.

        2) Biggest problem in developing countries isn’t expensive food but cheap abundant food with sudden price rises. Highly subsidised western produced food is dumped on developing countries. Local farmers can’t compete and are driven to city slums collecting trash. When a person can barely feed himself gathering plastic from a landfill 20 hours a day, any rise in food prices will be devastating.

        Most countries with devastating famines such as in Ireland and Ethiopia actually exported food during the famine – their population just didn’t have the money to buy it.

        Sure, organic food production can’t feed everyone on this planet, but is that really the only alternative to GM food?

        3) It is true that millions of dollars used for testing isn’t actually nothing, but it can cost hundreds of millions or even billions to test new pharmaceuticals. Compared to that it is practically nothing.

      • Well, I’m a little surprised, I know a number of Finns and so far all I have met are highly intelligent and very well educated. But they are all scientists who work with me in the pharmaceutical industry. I don’t know how we got from carrots to flu vaccine, but I do have some direct experience working with flu vaccines. Do you know what squalene is? Do you know your body is producing squalene right now. You know it’s not just found in olive oil, but in all plants and animals? This topic has been studied extensively and no link between squalene and any autoimmune adverse event can be found.
        We have a similar problem here in the US, people have speculated that there is some link between thimersol (a mercury containing perservative) in vaccines and autism. Study after study shows no link but the myth persists. The danger is that people with no scientific knowledge protest and fight against a problem that doesn’t exist. The problem is then that a small number of people foolishly reject vaccination based on a huge wave of missinformation and now old diseases that were once gone are making a comeback.
        I’m afraid your views on GM foods are as dangerous and misinformed as you views on vaccination.

      • Hannu Korpilampi

        The link between H1N1-vaccine and narcolepsia is not my opinion. THL (Finnish National Institute of Health and Welfare) studied about the matter and accepted the link to be true. This is after spending a year claiming that the link does not exist and that something completely different *must* have been the cause. Similar rates of increases in narcolepsy was found in Sweden – also in children that had the Pandemrix -vaccine.

        Here is some literature about the subject:

        Just like in the discussion about GMO, the discussion about vaccines has been polarized into two camps: the other is completely paranoid and sees every vaccine as a threat and possible cause of god-knows-what. The other believes naively that every vaccine ever is nothing but pure health in a syringe and that no matter what you put in it can’t possibly do any harm. Both views are equally wrong.

        THL admits that squalene was the problem. They even went so far as to advertise the next vaccination they pushed as to be without squalene and therefore “safe”.

        Squalene is added to the vaccine to enhance the immune response to the virus particles, usually when the recipient has compromised immune response due to either illness or an old age. It has not been administered to children in such a large scale before. We were the guinea pigs. Luckily for the GSK, before the vaccinations it demanded and EU granted it a waver so that it does not need to pay for any compensation.

        Now from this extremely cost effective (to GSK) experiment we know is that when you inject it to children, sometimes the enhanced immune response is directed against some random substance that is present where the injection is made. From that point on the immune system believes that substance to be the attacker. Depending on the substance you get different kinds of autoimmune-diseases.

        Increase in narcolepsy (an extremely rare condition in children and therefore the easiest to detect) is confirmed. THL is in process of studying has it increased the number of other autoimmune-diseases. I have a bad feeling narcolepsy wasn’t the only one.

  16. Where there are deserts, and therefore lots of solar power, and fresh sea water, we already have the technology to grow food. There is a fish farm in the Sinai,growing sea bass, and a greenhouse outside Adelaide, growing hydroponic vegetables. The extent to which these areas can be turned in to productive `farmland`, will surely be decided by the economics, rather than anything else. So there is still lots of potential for more `farmland`coming into production.

  17. Mark Lynas’ interesting article looks at crop production and GM technology.

    But there is another aspect: the amount of total arable crop land available to feed a growing human population.

    The record shows that this has not been a constraining factor in the past:

    Overall yield of major food crops increased 2.4x from 1970 to 2010, while population increased 1.9x.

    As Jim Cripwell points out, it is likely that more arable crop land can be created (at a cost) if needed.

    But, as the failed US experience with the mandated and highly subsidized corn ethanol program has shown, this program has had negative side effects on overall farmland utilization and corn prices worldwide.

    In the USA today, ethanol is mandated to up to 10% of gasoline motor fuel; 13 billion gallons/year ethanol are replacing 10 billon gallons/year octane equivalent gasoline (out of a total consumption of around 140 billion gallons/year).

    Let’s assume that US motor fuel demand will grow with population to 260 billion gallons/year by 2100.
    140*570/315 ~ 260

    And let’s assume that 30% of this is covered by ethanol. This would require around 100 billion gallons/year of ethanol and result in a net cumulative reduction of around 35 GtCO2 by 2100, or a net reduction in atmospheric CO2 of around 12 ppmv.

    Using IPCC’s mean (2xCO2) ECS of 3.2°C, this would result in a theoretical reduction in global temperature by 2100 of around 0.09°C.

    So ethanol as a bio-fuel is not going to save the day.

    But how much crop land would be needed to supply the ethanol required by 2100 just in the USA?

    Corn yield is around 150 bushels/acre. This equals around 1.3 tons ethanol per acre, which replaces 1.0 tons octane equivalent gasoline.

    So for an annual production of 100 billion gallons (320 million tons), this would require 320 million acres of cropland.

    The total agricultural crop land surface area in the US is around 430 million acres, so this would require three-fourths of all the crop land of the US (assuming corn could be grown everywhere).

    So if we use up three-fourths of the US crop land we can achieve a theoretical temperature reduction of less than 0.1°C by 2100.

    Sounds like a bummer to me.


    PS Sugar cane ethanol yields per acre are around twice as high as those from corn (but sugar cane does not grow in most of the US).

    • David Springer

      The price of sugar has doubled in the past 5 years or so. One pound of cane sugar from the grocers will produce approximately one half pound of ethanol. There are 8 pounds of ethanol to a gallon. Cane sugar used to go for about $0.25/pound at the grocers so $4 worth could produce a gallon of ethanol. I just noticed the other day that it’s now about $0.50/lb which is a far larger increase than monetary inflation can account for so we’re basically forced to pay a price for refined sugar that is greater than the value of the ethanol that could be produced from it. Sugar purchased in bulk near the point of production is an attractive feedstock for ethanol production. Molasses is generally used for ethanol production instead of refined sugar when cane or beets are the crop used to produce the sugar. Sugar is a good deal more efficient than starch (corn) as feedstock. Corn requires an extra step carried out by an enzyme to break the starch down into sugar which yeasts can digest to produce ethanol. The traditional source of that enzyme is malted barley.

    • Max, You are omitting cellulose ethanol; i.e. ethanol made from WASTE agricultural products. And despite what some peole claim, not all this waste is needed to be recycled for agricultural purposes. Yes, there has been the failure of Range Fuels, but that is not the main player. The main player is Poet, in partnership with DSM. Poet is the largest producer of food ethanol, so it has the infrastructure to handle cellulose ethanol. Look up Project Liberety. This is being funded with $300 million of private money, and a production facility is due to come into operation either in late 2013 or early 2014; initial production – 20 million gallons per year.

      Will this be a financial success story? We dont know. Poet/DSM estimate it is financially viable if the wholesale proce of gas is more than $2 per gallon, which it currently is. If successful, Poet estimates that it could be producing something like 3 billion gallons of cellulose ethanol by 2020, and other firms, using the same technology about the same.

      Shell owns the Iogen technology developed in Canada for a similar process. They have enough money and feedstock to come on board if Poet is successful.
      So, please dont write off cellulose ehtanol yet.

      • Jim

        That’s a good point about cellulose ethanol. I was simply looking at the current corn ethanol picture, which converts an edible crop food to a gasoline replacement.

        Agree we should wait and see how cellulose ethanol plays out economically but, since it runs on waste material, it does not tie up crop land or an edible crop food, so is outside what I was talking about.


      • David Springer

        Actually the easiest way to use biomass is dry it and burn it. You get every btu possilbe out of it that way with very little processing.

        What we need, and what we will almost certainly have in plenty of time, is an artificial microorganism designed in one easy swoop to turn any plant product into diesel or ethanol. There’s no particular reason we can’t design microbes that can form storage containers with spouts on them.

        The stuff to do this is all extant in nature but since there’s been no survival advantage in producing coconuts filled with diesel oil we have to do some cutting and pasting from a variety of microbes to get what we want. Then we’ll be responsible for its survival because it won’t be able to compete in wild producing coconuts filled with diesel. Except to humans there’s no value in that metabolic product.

        It doesn’t seem like there’s much opportunity for profit from infrastructure to produce fuel in a way that will almost certainly be obsolete within a reasonable amortization period of say 18 years. It’s inconceivable to me that we won’t have created exactly the artficial microbes we need by then and this will be cheaper than pulling oil out of the ground and refining it ever was. This will create a new era where energy will finally be too cheap to meter. I heard that 50 years ago about nuclear but this time it’s real and its a technology that’s been around for billions of years. It’s a reverse engineering job basically and progress is measured by how fast we improve the tools we use to slice and dice and reassemble genomes. The faster and cheaper you can do that the faster and cheaper you learn how the black box works. A lot of stuff in genetics now happens on laboratories the size of an integrated circuit chip. It’s phenomenal and reminds me of the progression from transister radios to smart phones.

  18. The War on Drugs is another example where mainstream science is ignored. British scientist Dr David Nutt was fired from his government post a few years ago for daring to publish a paper that argued recreational horse riding was far more dangerous than recreational use of MDMA (ecstasy). MDMA being a class A drug in the UK meaning it carries the highest penalty for possession or supply. Yet really it isn’t dangerous at all if you run the numbers. Politicians and the public couldn’t stomach the idea that their alarmism about recreational drug use was not scientifically justified, so he was sacked.

    The common theme in all these examples is not alarmism is wrong or right, but that the mainstream scientific position tends to be right but is often ignored by those with an ideology in conflict with reality.

  19. So, now we need GM to combat warming and population growth. Prediction: by 2030 it will be far beyond glaringly evident that neither of those two is, or was ever, a threat. Population will have stalled, and be on the brink of a long decline. Temperature will already be lower.

    So GM will indeed be useful. Just not for dealing with those two greenscares.

  20. Joe's World {Progressive Evolution}


    Farming is a hard life that the youth of today is not interested.
    They see many more jobs that are not as physically demanding with hours that is not of a “normal” life style.
    The passing down of the family farm is getting more and more rare.
    The farm land around urban areas is scooped up for urbanization.
    Some farm lands still have a great amount of aggravate still being mined or looked at for garbage disposals.

    Still crooks in the system when a garbage dump is slated to be built on a flood plain over a water aquifer. Of course, scientists have reassured us that the water will NOT be polluted by run off or that the past flooding will NOT occur….hmmmmm.

  21. As with climate, food is a bit more complex than a simple extrapolation of the past half century’s yield gains into a future peak farmland. Matt Ridley could have done a better job of critiquing Ausabel’s overly simplistic analysis.
    Mark Lynas is completely correct about GM crops. But unfortunately Darwinian evolution suggests the pests are beginning to win, not good news for future yields.
    Controversial biofuels may contribute to future energy needs, but cannot save the coming peak fuel situation, even if population growth continues to slow. That is a simple matter of placing basic facts into the correct multiplicative context and logical order.
    A crunch is coming, and it has very little to do with climate.
    All analysized in considerable factual detail in the ebook Gaia’s Limits.

    • “peak fuel”

      We couldn’t burn all the technically recoverable coal in 500 years if we tried. We probably won’t like the price.

      Hence ‘peak fuel’ is a matter of cheaper substitutes becoming available.

      Since almost everyone likes ‘cheap’ then a bit of R&D money to find ‘cheaper’ energy sources is probably a good idea.

      • Harrywr2,

        That’s what Bjorn Lomborg has been advocating for many years. He’s been right all along. Way ahead of the pack.

        I think Lynas throwing a pie in Lomborg’s face when he was about to present to a group of young academics was disgustingly bad manners and insulting. It shows Lynas to be a self-opiniated journalist with no respect for globally renowned economist. The way Lomborg responded showed real class and showed what Lynas really is – a disgusting brat. It is also another example of how environmental zealots behave. Unfortunately, many who blog here, and on other web sites that discuss climate matters, demonstrate display similar attitudes in their comments.

  22. Food productivity is a function of distance from population centres, governance and wealth of the nation (GDP/capita).

    The point is that food productivity will increase as countries increase their GDP per capita, improve their governance (stop theft, stop wars, improve legal system gain secure title to their land, etc), and improve their infrastructure for transporting produce and the equipment, fertilizer and workers needed to manage and operate the land food production system.

    Higher GDP per capita and low energy costs will enable future generations to provide fresh water where needed.

    As GDP per capita increases, the population growth rate will decrease. So less mouths to feed.

    The world can grow enough food to support any realistic projection of global population. We need to increase GDP growth, especially in the poorest countries, and keep the cost of energy as low as is possible. Therefore, taxing CO2 is exactly the wrong policy

  23. > There are processes of gradually opening one’s mind and beginning to take seriously alternative viewpoints, and then looking more closely at the weight of the evidence.

    What a great statement indeed.

    Interestingly, this Mark Lynas’ quote follows another one by Mark that ends with this:

    > You are entitled to your views. But you must know by now that they are not supported by science. We are coming to a crunch point, and for the sake of both people and the planet, now is the time for you to get out of the way and let the rest of us get on with […]

    I chopped the end, because it does not matter much for Denizens.

    Sorry, Denizens (go team!), but we’ve reached a crunch point.

    • John Carpenter

      Gee Willard, why leave off the last part? “Feeding the world sustainably”. There, now there is no ambiguity to what you were trying to say…. Right? You wouldn’t want anyone to be confused that those words didn’t mean a climate crunch point, would you? I mean, how else we’re the ‘denizens’ supposed to take your comment?

      • John Carpenter,

        Please tell me how the end of the sentence changes the attitude expressed in that quote.

        Please tell me how you reconcile that attitude with the first sentence.

      • By “first sentence”, I mean the “wow” quote of the main blog post:

        Gradually opening one’s mind.
        Taking seriously alternative viewpoints.
        Looking more closely at the weight of the evidence.

        Then reaching a crunch point.

        All needed to see Judy’s rhetorical trick is to read back the quotes in reversed order.

      • John Carpenter

        Willard, point well taken…. I guess it all depends on what you consider the ‘crunch point’ to be. Without defining that, you leave it up to the imagination…. And imaginations will run wild. At least ML acknowledges a solution to the hunger problem after researching.

        I reconcile the first sentence with the last when I consider there is no way to avert some sort of crunch point in either case. There will be hunger, there will be climate change. Many denizens here are in no denial that AGW is real. By ‘denizen’, i am including everyone who comes and posts here on a regular basis. So lets open our minds up to the solutions we have wrt to climate change.

        Since you confirmed to me what you meant… How would you finish the sentence in the context of ‘climate’ thereby giving us all an understanding to how that problem can be fixed from your point of view… I mean, you can’t simply chastise Judith and the ‘denizens’ for failing to open their minds, point out the ‘crunch point’ (whatever that is) is coming and then offer no solution. The whole point of the end of the sentence was to offer a solution to the problem. What’s the answer Willard?…open your mind… denizens want to know.

      • Steven Mosher

        Ya John, The crunch point I see as somebody who believes in AGW is that the fight for a global treaty has been a huge waste of time and political capital.

      • It’s been completely unnecessary, too, moshe, because the necessary adaptation will always be local, and the politics will be……should be local. Trying to centralize that is inefficient, even tragic.

        I’ve a great idea; centralize the Guilt. It is the UN’s fault. Or Bush’s.

    • Willard

      Agree that Lynas’ essay, including his last statement about feeding the world sustainably makes sense.

      The concept of a “crunch point” implies urgency to make a decision, which, in the case of restricting the maze of bureaucratic regulations hampering GM today, makes sense – as Lynas writes.

      There is no “crunch point” requiring an urgent decision on climate, Willard, regardless of what you might personally believe.

      As our hostess has testified before US Congress, AGW is not likely to become an existential problem to the end of this century, even in its worst incarnation. I would tend to accept this testimony more than an off-the-cuff “4C by 2100” statement by Jim D (or an “extrapolation” in a poster by Vaughan Pratt).

      Fortunately, we have the time to clear up all the many uncertainties related to natural versus human forcing, etc. before we need to make any urgent decisions on climate (if we will have to at all).

      As Lynas points out, the “uncertainties” relating to GM have been cleared up by the “science”, so the situation is a different one.

      Now, one could turn this around and say the “decision” to get the science straight before making a policy “decision” is, in itself, an “urgent decision”.

      But, no matter how you turn or twist it, the GM situation as Lynas describes it is totally different from the one relating to CAGW.


  24. Mark Lynas is a polico-eco-journalist who has published extensively based upon he being illiterate in science. His stated transition from con to pro on a number of topics including nuclear power, DDT, GM foods, etc. reflects his appeal to others to do what he has not nor could not do, undo the harm he has caused so far.

    “In 2007, he published: ‘Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet’, a book detailing the progressive effect of global warming in several planetary ecosystems, from 1 degree to 6 degrees and further of average temperature rise of the planet. Special coverage is given to the positive feedback mechanisms that could dramatically accelerate the climate change, possibly putting the climate on a runaway path. As a possible end scenario the release of methane hydrate from the bottom of the oceans could replicate the end-Permian extinction event.

    In 2008 National Geographic released a documentary film based on Lynas’s book, entitled Six Degrees Could Change the World.

    In 2010, Lynas published an article in the New Statesman entitled “Why We Greens Keep Getting It Wrong” explaining that he now felt that several of his previous strongly held beliefs were wrong. For example, he suggested that opposition by environmentalists, such as himself, to the development of nuclear energy had speeded up climate change, that proscription of DDT had led to millions of deaths and that GM crops were necessary to feed the world.”

    He is a purveyor of platitudes and his scientific illiteracy is shared by many environmentalists. The least he could do is shut up.

  25. Keith Kloor has an article at Collide-a-Scape that includes this quote from Mark Lynas:
    In that link, I found this: Greenpeace; the group is fiercely opposed to genetically modified crops and trafficks in all manner of junk science and alarmism to advance its anti-GMO agenda. But it also accepts the consensus on climate science and works to raise awareness about global warming. So is Greenpeace anti-science or pro-science?

    Greenpeace is anti-science! Consensus Climate Science is an extreme example of anti-science. Real Science is always skeptical!

  26. My main concern with GM food is that we may not change crop genotypes enough. If the economic environment encourages over-reliance on crop mono-cultures then big trouble is being stored up for when an unusually damaging pest/parasite/disease spreads rapidly through essential world food crops. Not IF, but WHEN. Just like bad weather, it will happen. And if there are little or no grain reserves…

    But that’s not only a problem for GM foods.

    • My main concern is that people who do not know what they are talking about will raise unwarrented concerns, sprinkling in scientific sounding terms like genotypes and mono-culture. And in doing so will convince scientifically ignorant leaders in developing countries to ban GM foods, thereby depriving people of a better source of food and unwittingly perpetuate unneccesary starvation. It is especially sad when this is coming from people who have all they can eat and more….

      But that’s not the only problem for eco-nutters.

  27. It’s about time a Leftist admits they’re all full of it. I have not seen it since Patrick Moore, founder of Greenpeace, showed us enviro-whackpots’ crazy beliefs have taken humanity up the Amazon without a paddle.

  28. The convergence of intellectual superstition and predjudice is palbable–e.g., the climate movement is at its heart a reductionist one whereas ‘the organic movement is at its heart a rejectionist one.’

    And, neither movement will, ‘accept many modern technologies on principle. Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, who froze their technology with the horse and cart in 1850, the organic movement essentially freezes its technology in somewhere around 1950, and for no better reason.’

  29. The problem, of course, is water. Fresh water aquifers are being depleted at a ferocious rate, contributing to substantial subsidence, and already “virtual” water is being exported as food in huge amounts. This issue is not dealt with in the Ausubel paper in any serious way.

    If you are going to claim that sea water can be desalinated, why then where are you going to get the energy from at a low enough cost that food remains affordable for all. There are similar issues, although not as vital, with a sufficient supply of fertilizer and herbicides and insecticides.

  30. John Robertson

    Peak farm land? Sounds more like geographically challenged and creatively stunted.
    The Environment Canada Map, of farm land available says it all.
    2-5C warming would bring a huge chunk of land into play, for todays cereal crops. Sane Canadians would be cheering if AGW was real.
    With no climate change, there is still room for major improvement in food production, look to the farmers out of business due to imports of subsidized rice and corn from the USA.
    These claims of peak anything are as one with claims of peak horse dropping of the late 1800s.

  31. The phrase “There’s none so blind as those who will not see” springs to my mind. Mark Lynas still can’t see his problem with his continued climate alarmism. He is proud of recognisng the failure of his GM fanaticism … but can’t see any further, say for example, past his 9 Planetary Boundaries and his Anthropocence belief. Though I suppose there are millions of “blind” still lined up behind him. So I suppose a hearty “Well Done!” is in order for Mark. Oh well, we humans still have a bit of exploring to do on the evidence-over-emotion frontier .

  32. “In short, I’ve learned that the emotionally charged, politicized discourse on GMOs is mired in the kind of fever swamps that have polluted climate science beyond recognition.” So his scientific come to Jesus only applies to GMO but not CAGW?

    • Don, hate to say it, but right now, the majority of the science in the CC sphere does point to CO2 having an effect on our planets energy content.

      • Yeah, DeNihilist. Science points to “CO2 having an effect on our planet’s energy” balance.

        But NOT that this effect will be potentially catastrophic, as IPCC has posited.

        There’s the rub.


  33. No mention of the enormous US and european farm subsidies?

  34. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough, enough of these self-serving academics pretending they’ve seen the light of science nullifying their previous unthinking rampaging while still claiming their new brighter understanding is rock solid because it has science consensus..

    He doesn’t know what he’s talking about re AGW so what on earth would lead anyone to think he’s not simply regurgitating more fake science memes, this time brainwashed by Monsanto and the nuclear industry?
    “Just as I did 10 years ago, Greenpeace and the Soil Association claim to be guided by consensus science, as on climate change. Yet on GM there is a rock-solid scientific consensus, backed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, health institutes and national science academies around the world. Yet this inconvenient truth is ignored because it conflicts with their ideology.”

    He follows this with: “One final example is the sad story of the GM blight-resistant potato. This was being developed by both the Sainsbury Lab and Teagasc, a publicly-funded institute in Ireland – but the Irish Green Party, whose leader often attends this very conference, was so opposed that they even took out a court case against it.
    “This is despite the fact that the blight-resistant potato would save farmers from doing 15 fungicide sprays per season, that pollen transfer is not an issue because potatoes are clonally propagated and that the offending gene came from a wild relative of the potato.
    “There would have been a nice historical resonance to having a blight-resistant potato developed in Ireland, given the million or more who died due to the potato famine in the mid 19th century. It would have been a wonderful thing for Ireland to be the country that defeated blight. But thanks to the Irish Green Party, this is not to be.
    “And unfortunately the antis now have the bureaucrats on their side. Wales and Scotland are officially GM free, taking medieval superstition as a strategic imperative for devolved governments supposedly guided by science.”

    There already exist blight resistant potatoes, they are not wild but domesticated..

    The potato famine in Ireland was genocide, the land was producing plenty of food which was not made available to the Irish serfs whose land was stolen by the British to make a few very rich.., much as the famine in India was allowed to happen to keep up the price of rice. This is the story of imperial/industrial exploitation throughout our known history, we’re blinkered if we don’t see these same forces in play in AGW and and GMO propaganda, and, in the banking cartel’s industrial/military complex in total screwing every nation it can for its resources by creating wars and manipulating the governments of nations to the detriment of the people.

    Monsanto is a predator destroying the diversity of crops worldwide and set on destroying the freedom of people to have control over their own food production, the nuclear industry manipulates “research” to downplay the dangers and global warming is based on the fictitious “The Greenhouse Effect” deliberately created from fake fisics.

    His “argument” for GM is a manipulating strawman distraction from the reality of this by the usual manipulation of history and fact accompanied by claimed “proven science” which turns out to be lie after lie after lie.

    “It is unfortunately much the same in much of Africa and Asia. India has rejected Bt brinjal, even though it would reduce insecticide applications in the field, and residues on the fruit. The government in India is increasingly in thrall to backward-looking ideologues like Vandana Shiva, who idealise pre-industrial village agriculture despite the historical fact that it was an age of repeated famines and structural insecurity.”

    Yeah right, some of these places grow three crops a year and famines are caused by adverse weather conditions, when they’re not from manipulation of the market. Monsanto GM lauding is not on proven science:–5133.html

    Enough of the bleeding heart saving millions from starvation BS from these puppets promoting the industry of the maker of Agent Orange which is still killing the people exposed to it:

    And from the same link, the real reason GM was created:

    “Two different types of GM seeds for crops around the world. The first, herbicide-tolerant crops are produced when a gene from bacteria that is resistant to the herbicide is inserted into the plant and the end result is when the crop is sprayed with the herbicide; all the other biodiversity is killed except resistant crop. Conveniently, Monsanto also produces the herbicide, RoundUp, which is used to spray the crops genetically modified to resist the herbicide.”

    Settled science consensus and no health problems with GM? From the same link:

    “With respect to GMO’s, Monsanto’s view on the health risks from their own website state, “Requiring labeling for ingredients that don’t pose a health issue would undermine both our labeling laws and consumer confidence.” However, in March 2010, the Huffington Post reported, “Monsanto’s GMO Linked To Organ Failure, Study Reveals.” The study reported by the International Journal of Biological Sciences states, “Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs…data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity.”

    I call BS on the lot of it.

    • John Robertson

      Myrrh I agree, Con Senses science?
      Con the senses into ignoring science is what a consensus means in govt committee considerations of science. Been that way for years, Greenpeace joined up with the UN bureaucrats.IPCC is the result.


    “Poland beekeepers kick Monsanto out of the hive, successfully ban bee-killing GM corn

    Ethan A. Huff
    Natural News
    Wednesday, May 30, 2012

    A significant health freedom victory has taken place in the European nation of Poland, where all plantings of Monsanto’s MON810, a genetically-modified (GM) variety of maize (corn) that produces its own built-in Bt insecticide in every kernel, have been officially banned.

    “The decision comes after thousands of protesters recently took to the streets in demonstration of the undeniable fact that both MON810 and the chemicals applied to it are at least partially responsible for causing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the worldwide phenomenon in which entire swarms of honey bees disappear or turn up dead.

    “According to reports, Poland’s decision to ban MON810 makes it the first nation to formally acknowledge that Monsanto’s GM corn is definitively linked to CCD. It also affirms the findings of several earlier studies that have identified a link between Bt GM crops and bee deaths, including independent research conducted by Pennsylvania beekeeper John McDonald.

    “McDonald’s research found that bees foraging near Bt crops did not gain the proper amount of weight, and failed to produce honey in their honey supers (honey storage bins) when they should have. Their non-Bt crop counterparts, on the other hand, produced more than double the amount of honey they needed to survive the winter (

    “Back in early March, nine European countries — Belgium, Great Britain, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Ireland, and Slovakia — successfully blocked an effort by the Danish EU presidency to allow expanded cultivation of GM crops in Europe. And around that same time, France imposed its own ban on MON810.

    “Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to forge ahead in the unmitigated, and largely unregulated, cultivation and use of GM crops. Despite countless grassroots efforts to put at least some restraint on GM agriculture, including a number of state initiatives that would require GMO labeling on food, Monsanto’s products continue to dominate much of the American agricultural landscape.”

    The US propaganda is failing in the rest of the world and with good reason – without bees there would be real mass starvation globally, they are the main pollinators of crops.

    “(NaturalNews) For several decades, colony collapse disorder (CCD) — a mysterious condition where entire bee colonies die for seemingly no obvious reason — has been inflicting bee populations across both Europe and the US. But scientists from the United Nations (UN) say the phenomenon is now a global crisis, afflicting bees across China, Japan, and Africa, as well as in other places.

    “The report, issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), explains what many NaturalNews readers already know — mainly that without bees, there will be no more food. Bees are one of nature’s primary pollinators, and over 70 percent of the world’s food supply relies on them to grow.

    “”Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. “Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature’s services in a world of close to seven billion people.”

    “One such mode of “technological prowess” is the flagrant and irresponsible use of genetically-modified organisms (GMO). GMO technology is heavily reliant on the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides, which several recent studies have pinned to the widespread bee deaths (

    “In January, a leaked document revealed that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actually knowingly approved a bee-killing pesticides known as clothianidin. This Bayer CropScience chemical has been identified as a primary instigator of CCD, and yet it has remained freely available on the market since 1993 when the EPA first approved it.”

      • Eric H. | January 7, 2013 at 8:27 am | Reply A different point of view:

        Shrug. A different point of view which whitewashes over the problem is your answer to this?

        If it’s affecting known, managed, honey bee populations then what makes him think it isn’t affecting other bees collecting nectar? And other insect populations such as moths? And, if it is affecting these other pollinators what does that imply for the health of those fauna which rely on these as a food source?

        Well anyway, you might want to believe that a company with a track record of producing poisons to exterminate even us higher up in the food chain has integrity as its middle name..

        ..but contrary to what this piece touts, we do know the connection, as he correctly states the start of this phenomenon, between the cause and effect and do have an explanation why there are no dead bees around the hive as there are when attacked by viruses etc.:


        Peter Olson BA. Dip Ed.
        Original version published in The Village Journal, NSW, Australia.

        “-Genetically modified (GM) crops often contain a bacterium called Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt).

        -Most of the research on Bt has looked at the directly lethal affects of Bt and little research has looked for indirectly lethal affects the Bt.

        -Some insects have been shown to survive the Bt poison by having a strong immune response to the Bt poison. (Ref R)

        – Insects generally and Bees specifically, have been shown to experience learning impairment and memory disorder, if they have an immune response.(Ref A1, B, D, E)

        -A learning impairment or memory disorder would mean that Bees could not navigate back to their beehive.”

        “The difference between a neonicotinoid insecticide spray and the Bt insecticide in a genetically modified crop, is that the former is very easy to restrict or recall, whereas the latter may prove impossible to recall. With genetic materials, the quantity of GM material in existence gets bigger as time passes. If a problem develops with a GM crop, then that problem will likely increase as time passes.”

        That is the crunch here. Monsanto is set on destroying the diversity of native crops and replacing these with its GM varieties – this is not something that can be blithely ignored or played down – not least because the outcome could be loss of the whole diversity of pollen producing plants..

  36. Sustainable agriculture is touted as organic, non-GM, and local. So, no chemical fertilizers, no pesticides, no round up ready corn. Sustainable agriculture would be better defined as being able to produce enough food to feed the global population. Now, does it make sense to farm and ranch in a way that produces the most, safe food from the fewest resources? I think so! So why would we go back to primitive farming and ranching and call it sustainable? Organic isn’t healthier, isn’t tastier, and produces less yield. Why do it?
    One point of the “sustainable” agriculture meme that I agree with is buying local. Support your local growers and ranchers, these people work hard and it’s a good place to get fresh, tasty food. Oh, and if you want to believe the hype about organics, go ahead and buy them. There are people who are more than happy to sell these items to you at higher prices.

    • From the piece I posted above:

      “Britain’s chief scientist Sir David King, once proudly stated that Genetically Modified (GM) crops “could solve third world hunger”. Later he admitted that his claim was wrong (Ref M) and in fact the real outcome would appear to have been the exact opposite of his prediction. Now that GM crops have been widely planted and hence can not be recalled, we learn that GM crops actually produce significantly lower yields than natural varieties do. A large American study showed that “modified soya produces 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent” (Ref O).”

      A retired vetinarian told us a story about the house I lived in for a few years which in her day, as a recently qualified vet, had been one she visited and was different from all the others on her patch because it had been maintained as an organic farm. She said what struck her forcibly was that on this farm there were never ever the problems she saw regularly elsewhere, for example the cows on the the organic farm never had difficulties giving birth, the general condition of the herd far and away healthier than the other farms around. Anecdotal maybe, but somehow the idea that we should trust that pharmaceutical companies know what they are doing and that whatever they do is best for us, is rather naive, don’t you think?

      It’s a fledgling industry set on one object, to make money. That for a start means that it doesn’t have an interest in producing cures, but it also means that we have no guarantee that what it produces is of any real benefit to us. We should be wary of the hype, an industry that has lobbying interests restricting our access to natural medicines isn’t interested in our health.

      • Anecdotes, hand waving, and ad homs don’t an argument make. I would rather rely on the studies and the experience of farmers and ranchers, my brother being one of them. Your passion for advocacy is duly noted.

      • The study that you reference was an article from the Independent that referenced an American study…Here is what the author of that study had to say about the interpretation of his work by the Independent.

        “The freedom to investigate meaningful questions, and then extend and publish the results is what enables us to continue to advance our crop production systems to meet accelerating demands, and at the same time maintain and even improve our environment. Unfortunately, at times research findings can be exploited to inappropriate ends, as was done by Mr. Lean in The Independent. ”

        Here is the complete response:$file/Gordon_Fact_Sheet.pdf

      • Hmm, but his experiment seems a little odd, that his GM soya had to have extra manganese to come up to the non-modified soya in the second year was then arbitrarily scuppered as a comparison in the third year by feeding copious amounts to both..

        ..obviously didn’t like the first results.

        Which found as the farmers, and another study, reported, that GM crops produced lower yields ..

        The original Independent article here:

        “Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.

        “The study – carried out over the past three years at the University of Kansas in the US grain belt – has found that GM soya produces about 10 per cent less food than its conventional equivalent, contradicting assertions by advocates of the technology that it increases yields.

        “Professor Barney Gordon, of the university’s department of agronomy, said he started the research – reported in the journal Better Crops – because many farmers who had changed over to the GM crop had “noticed that yields are not as high as expected even under optimal conditions”. He added: “People were asking the question ‘how come I don’t get as high a yield as I used to?'”

        “He grew a Monsanto GM soybean and an almost identical conventional variety in the same field. The modified crop produced only 70 bushels of grain per acre, compared with 77 bushels from the non-GM one.

        “The GM crop – engineered to resist Monsanto’s own weedkiller, Roundup – recovered only when he added extra manganese, leading to suggestions that the modification hindered the crop’s take-up of the essential element from the soil. Even with the addition it brought the GM soya’s yield to equal that of the conventional one, rather than surpassing it.”

        My bold italic stress.

        Back to your:

        “So why would we go back to primitive farming and ranching and call it sustainable? Organic isn’t healthier, isn’t tastier, and produces less yield. Why do it?”

        Why distract from what is actually being discussed, the affect of GM crops to chemical/pesticide use v organic? Because the hyped greater yields for GM crops is just more BS of the greater benefits of GM in oh, all kinds of ways, that have never come to anything?
        “Even after years of research and near market dominance in four major crops in the United States, most of the promises for genetically engineered varieties are still in the future.

        “What we’ve seen is that there’s a lot of hype of genetic engineering and biotech,” says Mr Freese.

        “We see biotech companies often claiming that they are going to introduce miracle seeds with all sorts of fabulous properties – drought-resistance, extra nutrition, salt-tolerance.

        “What’s interesting though is that despite all of this hype, in 20 years we only have two traits that have been successfully developed.”

        Ah yes, that’s resistance to roundup produced by the same company to expand its sales of same and the insidious introduction of the bee killer bacteria Bt which is not killing the rootworms it is supposed to..

        Anyway, your claims above about organic not being healthier or tastier and giving lower yields are not true either, and there are also the benefits of not wiping out biodiversity of the land compared with the blanket monoculture of heavy pesticide use:

        So what’s happening here? Is your interest only in defending GM by producing sleights of hand strawmen and downright lies to hide the fact that claims for it are hype and that it’s effects are actually the opposite of the benign nature and super yields claimed for it?

        Well, that’s for your conscience.

        The Independent article stands vindicated, Dr Barney Gordon’s reply to it disingenuous.

        The new study confirms earlier research at the University of Nebraska, which found that another Monsanto GM soya produced 6 per cent less than its closest conventional relative, and 11 per cent less than the best non-GM soya available.
        “But the fact that GM crops did worse than their near-identical non-GM counterparts suggest that a second factor is also at work, and that the very process of modification depresses productivity. The new Kansas study both confirms this and suggests how it is happening.

        “A similar situation seems to have happened with GM cotton in the US, where the total US crop declined even as GM technology took over. (See graphic above.)

        “Monsanto said yesterday that it was surprised by the extent of the decline found by the Kansas study, but not by the fact that the yields had dropped. It said that the soya had not been engineered to increase yields, and that it was now developing one that would.”

        Oh gosh, another sleight of hand, is this where you learned the technique? The claim was that GM would increase yields and instead it reduces it, fact.

        And the piece ends: “Professor Bob Watson, the director of the study and chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, when asked if GM could solve world hunger, said: “The simple answer is no.””

        So, you can continue defending the indefensible for whatever reasons you have for doing so, but Monsanto doesn’t give a damn how much it poisons us, and by us I mean all us fauna and flora Carbon Life forms, and its methods are as always by such sociopaths, whatever it takes to keep them going to make a profit:

        “Aspartame was not approved until 1981, in dry foods. For over eight years the FDA refused to approve it because of the seizures and brain tumors this drug produced in lab animals. The FDA continued to refuse to approve it until President Reagan took office (a friend of Searle) and fired the FDA Commissioner who wouldn’t approve it. Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes was appointed as commissioner. Even then there was so much opposition to approval that a Board of Inquiry was set up. The Board said: “Do not approve aspartame”. Dr. Hayes OVERRULED his own Board of Inquiry.

        Shortly after Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr., approved the use of aspartame in carbonated beverages, he left for a position with G.D. Searle’s Public Relations firm.”

        And that’s the same picture throughout the pharmaceutical industry, always hyping the benefits and downplaying the dangers of their products, and spending millions to these ends:

        And that’s not beginning to scratch the surface of the hype in direct medications..

        So, back to the opening post. Mark Lynas comes across as a possible schill for the GM industry, what better than someone who has supposedly ‘seen the light’ and done a complete U-turn admitting he was unthinking in his previous opposition? When what it shows is that if not a shill he had been unthinking to such an extent that he never even explored the arguments against GM in his setting up a campaign against it which doesn’t give us any confidence in his academic rigour.., and, in his U-turn apparently still hasn’t, he continues mouthing memes apparently put in his head by whatever puppet master controls him.

        So, non-scientists that he was, he worked hard to produce his original book of fake fisics memes for the global warming scam, he has worked just as hard to produce this fake science for his GM piece now.

        This reminds me of how clever the misdirections by big oil in making the meme “sceptics are funded by big oil” the ubiquitous mantra of the greenies, all the while big oil funding the science fraud manipulation of temperatures, such as at CRU, and funding the greenies promoting the AGW global warming scam. Using the cost effective emotional energy of the greenies to get the heat taken off the greens’ anti pharmaceutical/nuclear etc. campaigning. Maggie Thatcher exploited them brilliantly distracting them from their great campaign against nuclear she made them anti coal in the global warming swindle. Which was why the fake fisics of the AGW Greenhouse Effect was created in the first place.

        There’s no science in any of this, just snake oil salesmen with a rather large following of supporters.

      • And a p.s. to my last post (which hasn’t yet appeared), re the Monsanto quote I gave:

        “Monsanto said yesterday that it was surprised by the extent of the decline found by the Kansas study, but not by the fact that the yields had dropped. It said that the soya had not been engineered to increase yields, and that it was now developing one that would.”

        As with my comment about this, they did hype as you do that GM crops give bigger yields and the following piece goes into some of that, but it also has something to say on Monsanto’s reaction to the lower yields of GM soya:

        “In 2009, in an apparent attempt to counter criticisms of low yields from its GM soy, GM seed producer Monsanto released its new generation of supposedly high-yielding GM soybeans, RR2 Yield. But a study carried out in five US states involving 20 farm managers who planted RR2 soybeans in 2009 concluded that the new varieties “didn’t meet their [yield] expectations”.7 In June 2010 the state of West Virginia launched an investigation of Monsanto for false advertising claims that RR2 soybeans gave higher yields8

        “If GM cannot increase yields even in the United States, where high-input, irrigated, heavily subsidised commodity farming is the norm, it is irresponsible to assume that it would improve yields in the Global South, where farmers may literally bet their farms and livelihoods on a crop.”

        So, all the claims that GM crops increase yield previous to this attempt to actually produce such were, and still are, BS, lies. And, failure in their attempt to actually produce a higher yield strain.

  37. Paul Milligan

    Dr. Curry,

    Can you please convert your request that we read Mark Lynas’ essay into a hypelink.

  38. Mark Lynas’ position on GM crops is consistent with his position on the Anthropocene—it’s here, let’s admit it and begin to manage it. It is a courageous and enlightened view. I applaud him wholeheartedly…

    • R Gates

      I see that William Connolley- citing some articles from Gavin- is promoting the notion of an Anthropocene on Wikipedia as late as this week

      So he’s still got his fingers into the big wiki pie. He seems to think the Anthropocene should be dated to the Romans. Probably a good idea as it was warmer then than now, although quite how Co2 affected the warmth back then I don’t really know.

      If Man DID have an effect back then through CO2 etc its difficult to see how we can live on this earth without drastically changing it.

      I can see no compelling evidence to change the name from the Holocene-perhaps you’ve got a more compelling article to link to than the one from Connolley?

      • Hi Tony,

        Here’s one good article worth a read:;2

      • tony b

        After reading the article cited by R. Gates, I still think it is a bit too anthropocentric (or egocentric) to describe the current period as the “anthropocene”, when it comes to our climate.

        Humans have always had this inherent propensity to take themselves a bit more important than they really are (ex. Noah’s flood).

        While humans have undoubtedly changed local climates (from land use changes, urbanization, land reclamation projects, large dams, etc.), we are really not that important in the overall scheme of things, when it comes to our planet’s global climate.

        As far as the CO2 impact is concerned, the last 12-15 years have shown us that natural forces (rather than humans) are still very much in charge of our climate.


      • Not only should Holocene roll over to Anthropocene, but the Quaternary Period which is defined by Ice Ages, should roll over to Quinary as those will have ended too.

      • R gates

        Let’s change my request to requesting an article whose lead author is not a climate change advocate with a vested interest to promote the cause


  39. The premise is made that we have reached “peak farmland”, IOW that there will be no need for additional agricultural crop land to feed the future human population of Earth.

    Let’s do a quick reality check on that.

    And let’s exclude any farmland that is used to produce bio-fuels.

    UN estimates have human population growth slowing down sharply as compared to the 20thC, with population reaching 9 to 10.5 billion by 2100.

    Let’s take the upper estimate of 10.5 billion.

    That is around 1.5x the present population.

    From 1970 to 2010 human population grew by 1.9x while crop yields of major crops grew 2.4x.

    At the same time, starvation rates decreased sharply and human life expectancy increased.

    So, if we want to continue reducing starvation rates, we will need to increase agricultural yield by more than 1.5x by 2100.

    Slightly higher CO2 levels will not hurt.

    Slightly warmer temperature, especially in higher latitudes, where this could translate into longer growing seasons, will not hurt either.

    GM crops should also help, as one of the articles suggests.

    Other new or improved farming technologies, especially in the developing nations, will most likely also help.

    So it is reasonable to assume that we will be able to increase overall agricultural yields by more than 1.5x by 2100 without requiring significantly more “farmland”.


  40. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That?

  41. The term “Anthropocene” of course begs the question: the assumption of human influence is the basis of the word.